Women’s hockey moves into the semifinals
Hawks upset No. 4 Toronto Varsity Blues in their own arena in best-of-three quarter-final series
Rick Osborne knows that a women’s hockey best-of-three series is a war. As much as it’s nice to win two battles and get it over with, sometimes you have to lose the battle in order to win the war.
And so with their season on the line, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks drove to Toronto to battle the Varsity Blues in their own arena for the third and final battle.
And after three overtime periods, the Hawks came out on top, accomplishing what they couldn’t do over the regular season.
And Osborne’s troops are tired.
“It feels like we’ve been here for a week,” said the bench boss after the series victory. “We’ve got a pretty tired team, but a pretty excited team as well.”
The quarter-final series required five periods of extra time on top of nine periods of regulation before a winner could be determined.
After the Varsity Blues took the first battle of the series 3-2, the Hawks clawed back, winning game two in overtime when fifth-year Jessie Hurreell beat Valencia Yordanov blocker side.
Head to game three, where third-year Dollee Meigs scored the game-winning goal in the third overtime period, upsetting the No. 4 team in the country and propelling Laurier to the Ontario University Athletics semifinals.
“We knew they don’t get to be No. 4 in the country based on not earning that standing,” Osborne said. “The three overtime games, it was one of those series for the ages.”
Third-year goaltender Amanda Smith played shutout hockey and thrived under the playoff pressure, posting a .969 save percentage and stopped a total of 94 shots over three games. Osborne said the key this year for Smith was having the first half of the season to recuperate and get into shape.
And when she does gets herself in shape and in the zone, “there’s nobody better in the league.”
Smith’s performance, alongside a strong supporting cast with superb conditioning, gave the Hawks the offensive and defensive power needed to defeat the Varsity Blues.
“This team is really gutsy. The new players we brought in all played tonight and they all played really well as well as [Blair] Connelly, and [Haley] Baxter, and [Giuliana Pallotta] and [Jacky Normandeau], we have absolutely no passengers,” Osborne said.
“This is one tough team to play against — they’re big, they’re physical and we were stronger and tougher when it counted.”
One of the key combinations for Laurier is the line of Meigs, Robyn Degagne and Erika Kiviaho. Kiviaho had the speed and power to create space for Meigs and Degagne so they can create scoring opportunities.
Osborne said splitting Degagne and Hurrell up a couple games ago has given Meigs an opportunity to move back into the top six and gives Laurier a couple lines that can provide some offensive power.Meigs picked up two goals in the series while Degagne had three points.
And the reward for beating No. 4 in the country? A date with No. 1. The next war en route to the OUA championship is the top-ranked Guelph Gryphons.
Osborne believes if the Hawks are going to pull another upset, they have to remain disciplined and limit their penalties against a potent Gryphon offence.
“Guelph is a really explosive and talented offensively. They have the best goaltender in the league and in the country for most of the season,” Osborne said. “They’ve got all the parts and we absolutely will need to be very disciplined.”
“If you take penalties against Guelph, you just won’t beat them,” he continued.
“We’re going to have to do everything we can to just make it one of those playoff pressure types of series.”